13 August 2017

Ireland road trip with the leprechauns

Ireland, a place that has to be explored by a road trip. So many nooks and crannies and wonderful places to explore that even after a week's road trip, I haven't touched on half the beauty of this country. Think small towns, where there is one shop but four pubs. Small pubs, with live music on a weekend and cheap pints. Friendly locals, strong accents and magnificent greenery to top it all off.

So, where do I start?

Two places seem like the obvious starting points, either Dublin or Belfast. I opted for Belfast as I have already been to Dublin a few times, so didn't feel the need to stop off again. Flew into Belfast cheaply from Manchester (god love Ryanair) and opted to pick up the car after spending two nights in Belfast.

Day 1 & 2 - Belfast

Not sure what I expected of this city, but the history surrounding this area obviously has a lot to say. We stayed in an Air BnB just a few train stops from the city centre and the area was clearly very British as I have never seen so many union jacks in my life. This is a really interesting thing about Northern Ireland and the divide between Irish nationalists and British loyalists. Some areas will don the Irish flag like there is no tomorrow, whereas some areas (like where we stayed) painted the town in the union jack.

Our two days in Belfast included firstly a trip to the food/farmers market at St. Georges Market. Usual Saturday market with plenty of food and drink, so worth stopping by for breakfast or lunch, then we trekked over to see Titanic. At £18, it isn't the cheapest attraction but does take about 2 hours of your time. I overall wasn't generally too impressed. A lot of reading, and a lot about Belfast during the time of building Titanic, and less about actual Titanic itself. However, when I visited there was a kind of panoramic screening of underwater footage of when James Cameron filmed the wreckage of Titanic. That bit was worth seeing. 

A final recommendation for Belfast was the black cab taxi tour. Famous tours around the city and you can choose between the political or historical tours. Really easy to book from the main tourist office and we turned up and had a tour within 20 minutes. We opted for the political tour, and the driver was on the Nationalist side a great deal. A really interesting tour lasting about 90 minutes and he drove us around Belfast and key areas from both Nationalists and Loyalist sides. We got out of the car plenty of time to see murals and memorials. A highlight of the trip, and a part I would definitely recommend.

Apart from exploring Titanic and driving round in a black cab, the rest of the time in Belfast involved eating and drinking. As any trip should. Good waterholes included, Dirty Onion & Yardbird, Kelly's Cellars (traditional Irish pub with a lot of history.) Food wise we went near the theatres and had one of the pre-theatre dinner deals which are always really good.

Day 3 - Giant's Causeway

We picked up our car at the end of day 2 near Belfast airport (through Atlaschoice and I think about £200 for the week). They asked if we were going over the border, and I knew this was an extra £30 so we said no and they never found out. We drove north up towards the Giants Causeway and stayed in a nearby town, Portstewart, at another lovely Air BnB. Got a great tip off the owner, saying that when going to the Giants Causeway, park at the hotel next to it and you don't have to pay if you're just having a coffee at the hotel, and then that saves on paying any parking at the Giant's Causeway car park right next to the hotel. Also, there was a small path next to the entrance which we used (therefore not having to pay to get into the Giant's Causeway at all.)

A magnificent sight and a must see. Glorious walks around so you can really make a few hours of it. Or you can choose the easier paths just to see the famous structures. From there we drove to Bushmill's Distillery, for a bit of whisky tasting and a tour. Only around £12 from what I can remember and it was a small grouped, interesting tour with some whisky tasting at the end. Drive a bit east from there to the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge (another fee to get in here... and no way of jumping the ticket price this time.) Worth a trip if you aren't afraid of heights, and we got to see a pod of dolphins as well! After the exploration of the north for the day we drove around 3 hours south, over the border and stayed in an Air Bnb in the middle of nowhere in Meath.

Day 4 - History buffs

Day 4 consisted of more ticket jumping at the sights of the Rock of Cashel, which is the ruins of a type of cathedral and general historic site in Ireland. We "joined" on to a tour group so that's how we got away with the ticket for this sight. From what I remember, around £6 to get in, and not entirely worth it in my opinion. We then drove to Cahir Castle and had a tour around the remains which was really interesting. 

From there, a few hours drive to the city of Cork, which is a cute city to wander around and there are plenty of pubs with live music to visit. We couldn't actually find that many restaurants, but it was middle of the week.

Day 5 - Getting the gift of gab

A quick morning in Cork looking round the farmers market then we drove to Blarney, which is a must see in my opinion. Blarney castle is an old castle, and the sight is now very touristy but the grounds are beautiful to walk around. You could easily spend half a day here and take the walk to the top of the castle to kiss the famous Blarney stone and get the gift of gab. Entrance fee was €15, but worth it for the amount you could see and do around the castle. Plus, the actual town/village of Blarney is cute and there are some nice cafes and shops to wander round. 

After we kissed the stone and gathered a million germs we drove the Ring of Kerry which is a scenic drive around the south-west of Ireland. Plenty of walks in the area and a really nice drive. We stopped off at Torc waterfall and did a mini hike around the stream and waterfall. Very picturesque and a really beautiful part of Ireland. Then off we drove to another Air Bnb in Killorglin.

Day 6 - shitty weather

It was shitty weather this day. We decided to drive to Inch beach (apparently it's famous for something) and it chucked it down all day. NAWT beach weather for the middle of August. Then we continued to drive and it was just more and more rain... ended up in Limerick which was not worth visiting. Basically a university town and I didn't rate it too much. Then off to Galway to stay in a lovely Air BnB.

Day 7 - don't jump!

Second to last day and taking in the sight that is the Cliffs of Moher. Another sight where we jumped paying anything. The cliffs are free to roam around but the car park costs. Also, they charge you depending on the people in your car, so either park down the road and walk to the Cliffs or drop everyone off before you get to the car park so that you're only paying for one person. Money savings tips all over this holiday. 

The cliffs were fantastic and there are a lot of walks you can do around to make your visit worth a few hours of your time. It is also a really scenic drive along the Wild Atlantic Coast, but it is very weather dependent. We were lucky and had great weather this day. From there we drove to ? which are more church/historical ruins but quite pretty and then we drove to Ballinasloe where our trip pretty much ended.

Day 8 just consisted of a long 5 hour drive back from Ballinasloe to Belfast to drop off our car. There was the option to drop it off in Dublin, which would have been a shorter drive, but the cost was almost double the rental of the car, so totally not worth it. Overall, just over a week exploring this fantastic green country with an abundance of history. And frankly, I wish I had more of a week to explore it all. If you've never visited before then the city of Galway is worth a day of your time, but as we had been before there was no point going on this trip. Plus I really want to explore more of Northern Ireland, especially the west of it.

Top trip, plenty of Guinness, plenty of strong accents, but no leprechauns...

1 comment:

  1. Where were the leprechauns gone?!



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